Gulzari Lal Nanda’s Poonch Connection

K.D. Maini
Poonch have the honour that two time officiating Prime Minister of India and close associate of Mahatma Gandhi, Gulzari Lal Nanda had passed memorable childhood in Poonch Principality during the rule of Local Dogra Raja Baldev Singh. As per peromillaKalhan`s Book ‘Gulzari Lal Nanda’, Nanda recalled his memories of Poonch as “I regard my year of Poonch as the most rejoice full period of my life where I spent my time in beautiful surroundings, the river of Poonch close to habitation, there I had the first sight of snowfall” The Bharata Rattan Awardee of 1997, Gulzari Lal Nanda was in Poonch principality in between 1908 to 1914, where his father Blaki Ram Nanda was a teacher in Victoria Jublee High School Poonch. Originally Blaki Ram belonged to The village Ghartal of Sialkote (Now in Pakistan) He was adjusted as teacher in Poonch on the recommendation of his Brother-in -Law of DewanPuri Family who was working as accounts officer in Poonch Darbar. From 1914 to 1921 Gulzari Lal Nanda had been coming to Poonch to meet his parents during study period. After independence Nanda boarded came to Poonch in February,1966 after Indo-Pak war of 1965 when he was Home Minister in Indira Gandhi Government. This visit was in the light of Tashkent Pact when, the ceasefire line was opened at Jhulass and Sawajian in Poonch Sector to allow those families to cross the ceasefire line who had migrated to the other side during the war days. Nanda was given warm welcome by the people of Poonch. During this visit, Nanda had also revived his old associations with the people of Poonch He also visited the Haveli of DewanPuri Families where he was living with his parents, the old High School of Poonch where he studied up to 10th class and addressed a big public rally and recalled his memories of Poonch by saying that he had visited the whole world but not seen a place like Poonch. Gulzari Lal Nanda was born on 4th June 1898 in the village Ghartal in Sailkote. He was the only son of Blaki Ram Nanda and Ishwari Devi Nanda. In those days his father was serving as teacher in Poonch principality, but Master Blaki Ram had left his son Gulzari Lal in the family of his in-laws in the village Harsal in District Sailkote and came to Poonch along with his wife. Gulzari Lal was admitted in a local School at Harsal. His shift from Harsal to Poonch was due to a harrowing incident. Being lonely without his parents Nanda strayed away from his grandfather’s house and boarded a train to reach Poonch without any money in his pocket. He had no railway ticket therefore he was picked up by a station master who took him to his house, gave food and then asked him to clean the utensils. However, being a new to this job he could not work and was sent away by the owner. He again boarded a train and cornered by a ticket collector who decided to send him jail but a kind women passenger took petty on him and handed over a small amount to ticket collector and sent Gulzari Lal back to the village Harsal. At Harsal his relatives were in search of him. He was taken back to the village and village panchayat decided to send him back to his parents at Poonch as early as possible. Therefore, Gulzari Lal Nanda came to Poonch and started living with his parents who were putting up in the Haveli of DewanPuri Family. At Poonch, Gulzari Lal Nanda started new life with the royal family. There was no other child in the family. His uncle had also no children, therefore he received full attention from the family. He was admitted in the High School Poonch where his father was a teacher and considered a good teacher and hard task master. The Headmaster was quite a delightful person. Nanda is thankful to Headmaster who induced in the habits of as he His father had no impact on son. There was no intimate relationship between the father and the son. This emotional gap persisted throughout the years. However, he was having very strong, deep and intense affection with his mother Ishwari Devi. Gulzari LalNanda writes about the days spent in Poonch as under: ‘My life in Poonch flows smoothly. Time was spent in beautiful surroundings. Everything was very cheap there. I used to accompany my uncle on horseback when he toured the countryside. The tenets tried to make our stay comfortable. I had gone along with the group to fair held at few mile away from Poonch town. It was a simple society in Poonch with no gulf between the high and low. I regarded my years in Poonch as most rejoiceful period of my life’ In 1911 he was studding in matriculation in Poonch. In those days the students of Poonchwould appear in exam at Rawalpindi. Seven students including Gulzari Lal Nanda went to Rawalpindi and appeared in the exam. When the result came out, all the seven students including Gulzari LalNand failed. Keeping in view his poor performance he was sent back to Sailkote where he passed matriculation and then did MA and LLB from Lahore and Agra Universities up to 1921.In this Period Gulzari Lal come close to the ideology of Mahatma Gandhi. Therefore, after doing LLB he joined Nom-cooperation Movement started by Mahatma Gandhi and came under the influence of Gandhian Ideology. Then he followed this ideology throughout his life. Renowned writer KrishanChanderwas also living in Poonch in that vary period with his father Dr. Gori Shankar Chopra who was working in Poonch principality as Medical Officer. KrishanChander writes in his book “MittykySanam” that there were good family relation between Master Blaki Ram and his father Dr. Gori Shankar. Whenever, Master Blaki Ram came to their house, he was always worried about his son and would tells that after getting Higher Education he had spoiled his carrier and joined Asharam of Gandhi Ji. His father was of the opinion that Gulzari Lal should come Back to Poonch and join the services of Raja Baldev Singh as Tehsildar, but his son seemed to be found of Jail Yatra instead of becoming an officer in the Administration of Raja Baldev Singh. However, the time proved that the Gulzari Lal Nanda was on the right direction and reached on the top due to his dedication towards Gandian Philosophy. He became MLA in Bombay Presidency in 1937. And remained parliamentary secretary during 1937 to 1939. He remained in Jail during Satyagraha Movement in 1932 and during 1942-1944. He was Deputy Chairman Planning Commission from 1950 to 1953. Union Minister of Planning and Power from 1953-1957, Labour Minister from 1957 – 1962, Home Minister from 1963-1966, Prime Minister from May 27 to June 11, 1964, Prime Minister From January, 11- 24 1966, Railway Minister from 1970-71, Chairman Kurukshetra Development Board from 1972 Onward. He was awarded Bharat Rattan Award in 1997. He was passed away on 15th June 1998 a little before his hundredth birth day.The people of Poonch always remember Gulzari Lal Nanda who had established his place in the hearts of the people of this area and served the nation with dedication and honesty.